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Friday, March 09, 2007

Underground Railroad Bicycle Route

The Adventure Cycling Association recently revealed its newest cross-country bicycle route, the 2,058-mile Underground Railroad Bicycle Route from Mobile, Ala., to Owen Sound, Ontario.

This bicycle route memorializes the Underground Railroad, a network of clandestine routes by which slaves attempted to escape for many years before and during the Civil War.

In Alabama and Mississippi, the route parallels the Tombigbee River, while in Tennessee and western Kentucky, it parallels the Tennessee River. In Kentucky, the route intersects Adventure Cycling's TransAmerica Trail between Carrsville and Sturgis, just a few miles and a short ferry ride away from Cave in Rock, Ill.

The route stays near the Ohio River until Brandenberg, Ky., where it crosses the river into Indiana. At Madison, Ind., the route again crosses the Ohio River back into Kentucky. The route traverses the northern tip of Kentucky. At Maysville, Ky., it crosses the Ohio River one last time into Ohio.

Once into Ohio, it backtracks to the Cincinnati suburb of Milford (and includes a spur into Cincinnati), then crosses the state to the Cleveland-Akron area. The route continues along Lake Erie through Pennsylvania and New York until Buffalo, where it crosses the Peace Bridge into Canada.

In Canada, the route goes through the Ontario city of Niagara Falls, skirts the southern tip of Lake Ontario, then continues to Owen Sound on the southern side of Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay.

Adventure Cycling has a short article that gives a good overview of the historical significance of the Underground Railroad, and you can learn about highlights of the route. Adventure Cycling is selling detailed maps of the route for those of you who want to do it alone, and is offering a supported tour of the route from Buffalo to Owen Sound on July 30-Aug. 5.

USA Today did a brief article about the new route today. Besides spotlighting the importance of the Underground Railroad, Adventure Cycling is attempting to introduce minorities to the joys of cycling. Here's a short snippet from the article:
That the predominantly white sport of bicycle touring is spotlighting black history isn't lost on Steven Thomas, director of the Center for Minority Health at the University of Pittsburgh. The center, which works to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities, is using the Underground Railroad route as a vehicle to draw more black Americans to cycling. After three years in development, Thomas calls it "one of the most interesting partnerships to advance minority health and lift up black history."
A tip of the hat goes to my good friend Jeff Herman for pointing out the USA Today article to me.

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